Parenthood is all about fragility. After years of hoping and trying, months of pregnancy, and many hours of labour, you cradle your beautiful, messy, wailing, tiny baby girl – and, suddenly, everything feels infinitely more precious and infinitely more fragile. But under Ontario law, some families are far more fragile than others. And that is unjust.
We are one of the families who took the Ontario government to court this year to demand the rights and recognition first promised to families like ours more than a decade ago. We took on this fight because our family has been hurt by the status quo.
Alice gave birth to Emmylou in March 2013. Despite the fact we were legally married, we had to go through a costly and time-consuming adoption process so that Amy could become, legally, what she had always been: Emmylou’s mother. We spent our money on lawyers, and our time on documents and details, rather than on desperately needed sleep. And so we are cautiously optimistic to hear that, should we decide to have a second child, the Ontario government intends to make that process easier for us.
But we didn’t take on this fight just for our family. We took it on for all Ontario families, queer or straight, trans or cis. And our fight is not over. This week, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced her government’s intent to draft legislation changing birth registration, but she made no mention of the rights of trans parents or the rights of multiparent families, or the rights of families who conceive with surrogates.
She gave us no concrete timeline for when this legislation might pass, or how exactly it will differ from Cy and Ruby’s Act – the private member’s bill drafted by MPP Cheri DiNovo. Ms. Wynne failed to explain why the government won’t pass Cy and Ruby’s law now, despite widespread enthusiastic support for it last fall. She offered no explanation for why her government will not settle with our family in court. We were given no details, only vague assurances. Queer families don’t need Ms. Wynne’s assurances; we need her actions.
The legality of this issue is clear. The Ontario Superior Court ruled 10 years ago that Ontario family law discriminates against queer families, and that those who conceive using reproductive technologies should be afforded the same rights as those who conceive naturally. The proposed legislation should address the rights of all queer and trans families.
The politics are clear. Ontario led much of the world in recognizing equal marriage. It has fallen shockingly behind by failing to recognize equal parenting, and equal families. Parental equality will only be achieved when the rights of all parents are taken into account.
The morality is clear. When families like mine are excluded from systems of birth registration and parental recognition, then parents just like us are told that we are not good enough and we do not count, and that our rights are somehow precarious, while our friends’ and neighbours’ rights are not. Children just like Emmylou are told their families are secondary, and only second best.
Despite yesterday’s press conference, the Ontario government has failed to produce a single reason justifying a 10-year (and counting) delay in responding to the court ruling. It has failed to provide a single reason why it will not address discrimination against trans and multiparent families. It has failed to explain why the welfare of children like ours should be subjected to outdated laws based on outdated attitudes.
Ontario children are vulnerable when their parents lack legal status. Ontario families are vulnerable when they struggle with an unjust and unequal legal burden. And in Ontario, it remains true that some parents are more equal than others. Until that changes, we will continue to stand with all queer and trans families to demand that the government pass Cy and Ruby’s Act.Report Typo/Error
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